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Sunday 7 August 2011

Upon First Glance – DC United v. Toronto FC

Some quick fire thoughts on the evening’s performance:

    Finally the team has a goal-scorer in Danny Koevermans three goals in his four league matches. They may not be pretty, but having somebody dangerous is a huge asset.

    Newly acquired Eric Avila looked like a player who had made very few appearances for Dallas this season. Joining a new team, lacking in match fitness he was never going to shine tonight. That said he showed some promise with the vision to see the cutting pass and the courage to attempt them.

    Avila did however earn that red card; that was a hit. When anyone says soccer is a non-contact sport show them that clip. As for the card itself, it depends on for what it was issued. If it was a last man denial of a goal-scoring opportunity then it was the wrong decision, Avila’s decisive touch had well put the ball out of reach. But if it was for dangerous play then it was warranted. The mid-air flip caused by the sliding tackle from Bill Hamid would have caused serious injury had Avila not had the good sense to get his feet off the ground.

    The whole team looked really tired. It a hot and humid night, the third match in a week having flown from Toronto to Portland to Nicaragua and finally to DC. The legs were lacking though the mind was willing.

    Some players seemed to be effected mentally by the exhaustion. Richard Eckersley seemed to be snatching at every pass, shot or tackle. His usually seamless play was punctuated with mistakes tonight, his hustle was subdued. The madness of North American travel must be to blame.

    Andy Iro had a mare of a match tonight. Relying on him as the answer to the problematic centre of defense was never going to be a long-term solution. His physicality is evident, and his IQ for the game is sufficient, but he seems to lack the focus necessary to be really dominant. Henry seemed to be having that same problem, as did Eckersley, so chalk this one up to unfamiliarity and exhaustion. The up side is that Iro can get better; he is still a young and inexperienced player who will benefit from coaching and practice.

    It was not the right night to blow through all three substitutions so early in the match. Not that the decisions made were not good ones – Aron Winter’s ruthlessness in making changes is admirable - but had a few pair of legs been inserted into the fray at the 75th minute Toronto FC could really have pushed for the win.

    That Julian de Guzman finally scoring that first goal was extremely enjoyable - ran around yelling a bit for that one – he definitely needed to get that off his back. Could this prove a turning point in his Toronto FC career?

    True, it could well have been negated as the hysterics of Ben Olsen and the DC United side implied, but from the available replay it appeared that the ref had been waving the player on for a good while before the sideline got the message. DC, understandably, played the clock down all night wasting time at every opportunity. That they were bit by sluggishness seems fair, but more information could change that opinion.

    Once again TFC hit the post only moments before they fell behind to an opening goal. A quick, well-disguised shot from Avila caromed off the upright past the diving Steve Cronin. Too often this season Toronto has had chances to put themselves in front only for them to be squandered. If only they could convert those first chances it could have been such a different season.

    Considering all the difficulties in the centre of defense and Winter’s tendency to have Torsten Frings sit deeper and deeper as the match progresses perhaps he would fill in the weakness of the backline as a centre-back until a true defender can be found. With the acquisition of Terry Dunfield and the continued revitalization of de Guzman in the midfield could a libero-type position for Frings – mopping up at the back and moving the ball forward – ease some of the tensions at the back? It’s worth a gamble.

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